A Quarantined Halloween: How Letterboxd’s Hooptober Is Salvaging The Spooky Spirit

It’s now officially spooky season, everyone! With restrictions on gatherings and people not feeling comfortable going out, it’s really easy to simply think that Halloween has been cancelled this year. While that may pertain to costume parties and fun social activities like that, Halloween can live on in other ways. Members of one particular social media outlet are making sure that Halloween is just as spectacular this year as it always has been.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

Letterboxd is a film social media app where you can log the films you watch, review them, see what your friends are watching, and make new friends in the film community that have similar interests. I’ve been using Letterboxd for four years now to simply log the films that I watch, just to keep track as I watch so many. During quarantine this year, I decided to look further into the social elements of the app and discovered a really rich and excited horror film community that I am now a part of.

For 27 consecutive months now, Letterboxd has been the home of what is called the “Horror Hunt.” For this monthly event, all you need to do is follow the guidelines for that particular month and pick one horror film to watch each day. This obviously isn’t an activity that is possible for everyone, as that is a lot of movie watching, but there are plenty of folks on there that slowly get to their lists and spread them out over a couple of months or more. My first experience with Horror Hunt was in August this year. I watched 31 films in 31 days, and I loved every minute of it. Commenting on the concept of the horror hunt challenge, Letterboxd member Emperor Cupcake states, “It motivates me to watch a film every day, including some that have been on my watchlist for years.” Many Letterboxd members have film watchlists that include well over 1,000 films. Emperor Cupcake continues, “I don’t really know anyone into horror in real life, so it’s nice having an online community of like-minded folks.” Letterboxd provides a great outlet for genre enthusiasts to connect with similar fans who can discuss films they love and also find new films that they haven’t even heard of before. 

In Fabric (Peter Stickland, 2018)

In searching through Letterboxd, it is quite clear that the horror community is the most active and engaged with these challenges. There are other challenges but many of them include all genres or focus on periods in film history. Letterboxd member Jon Ursenbach is no stranger to Letterboxd challenges. Ursenbach writes, “This coming Hooptober is going to be my third year participating in it, but beyond that I’ve made a couple monthly horror challenges as well as a Quarantine Staycation Film Festival I ran earlier this year that had me watching 15 Godzilla films and 10 Terminator ripoffs (sourced from a list I’ve been curating) over 3 days. Later this month, in lieu of this year’s Fantastic Fest being cancelled, I’m also doing an Ordinary Fest where I watch 40 films (over 8 days) that’ve run at past Fantastic Fest years.” Many of the challenges were developed to help people get through quarantine while stuck at home.

The most popular of the horror film challenges is called “Hooptober” after iconic horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper. Created by a Letterboxd member known as Cinemonster, Hooptober is currently about to begin its seventh year. To hear Cinemonster talk about the origins of Hooptober and how it has evolved over the years, give a listen to The Podcast Macabre’s interview with him here

Some of the criteria. in the various horror challenges can be kind of difficult, sending members on lengthier searches for films that fit the challenge. When asked what one of the more difficult challenges has been, Emperor Cupcake states, “When I have to watch something terrible (like The Bye Bye Man (Stacey Title, 2017), but at least I usually get a good review out of it.” On the September Horror Hunt, we were asked to watch one of the lowest ranked horror films on Letterboxd, Mine ended up being I Know Who Killed Me (Chris Sivertson, 2007) the Lindsay Lohan vehicle where she plays a stripper who loses a leg and a hand to a sadistic abductor. Ursenbach writes, “This year’s August Horror Hunt had a criteria that was “Find a horror movie with positive LGBTQ+ representation and then watch it!” and it was easily the most difficult criteria I’ve faced since I started doing challenges three years ago. I ultimately settled on Lyle (Stewart Thorndike, 2014), after browsing some other user lists that were participating in the challenge, but that was after spending what seemed like hours trying to narrow down films that were LGBTQ+ positive. Just like Black horror seems to be having a resurgence lately, I hope that queer horror can as well at some point because they’re unfortunately underrepresented right now.”

I Know Who Killed Me (Chris Sivertson, 2007)

So what exactly do you have to do if you want to participate in this year’s Hooptober? First, simply getting a Letterboxd account will allow you to make your own list. But after that, it’s really up to you. The criteria for the event are pretty open, leaving you the chance to select as many or as few films as you want to complete the challenge. In his original post for the event, Cinemonster notes that the films you select can check off multiple boxes.

You’ll Need:

  • Films from SIX countries
  • Films from SIX decades
  • SEVEN films that are the 2nd film in their horror franchise (i.e. Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981), Friday the 13th: Part II (Miner, 1981), etc.)
  • FOUR films from the body horror sub-genre
  • TWO horror films released in 2020
  • THREE disease-based films (quite timely!)
  • The highest rated horror film from the 1950s that you haven’t seen and can access
  • ONE film that is set in entirely one location
  • ONE invisible person film
  • ONE film that doesn’t include Dracula from the classic Hammer horror film studio
  • TWO films from a Black director or with a predominantly Black cast or lead actor
  • ONE film with a movie theatre in it
  • And finally, ONE Tobe Hooper film

I was able to condense my list down to 23 films, as many of the criteria overlapped. Some members have lists going well past 30 films. Hooptober officially begins on September 15th, as many people are busy and simply can’t watch a horror film every day, giving them an extra 15 days in addition to the month of October to watch all of their films. They must be watched by 11:59 PM on October 31st, however.

For his second year in a row, Jon Ursenbach is adding a charitable donation element to his Hooptober. He writes, “Since moving back to Oakland last year, I had been looking for a good way to help out with the struggling community and class divide out here and decided ‘Hey I’m going to be doing Hooptober 6 anyways, why not put it to a good cause?’ I ended up donating a total of $550 to a local food bank, and it felt really great to help out a local organization while also discovering something like Bones (Ernest R. Dickerson, 2001) and Petey Wheatstraw (Cliff Roquemore, 1977) at the same time. I’m doing the same again this year, again donating $10 for each film I complete, for People’s Breakfast Oakland because they help a lot of the same community here that’s really struggling right now. If I can help them out by finally getting around to seeing Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983), why not? As for sourcing donations, I generally just tell people if they’d like to help out to donate directly to the organization and let me know on my Hooptober 7 list or a DM on Twitter so I can keep track for future lists.” Other Letterboxd members have stated that they’ll also be donating for each film that they view.

Bones (Ernest R. Dickerson, 2001)

To wrap this up, here are some of these Letterboxd members’ films suggestions:

Emperor Cupcake: “Lips of Blood (Jean Rollin, 1975) which got me into Jean Rollins’ work!”

Jon Ursenbach: “Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974), Eaten Alive (Hooper, 1976). [It’s] a film so bathed in red hues and sweat that you feel you’re watching an actual nightmare. I’m a big Tobe Hooper fan with his work on the aforementioned TCSM, but had never heard of Eaten Alive before, just the other Eaten Alive! (Umberto Lenzim, 1980). It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi, so if you haven’t seen it add it to your Hooptober list while you still can. And stay away from swamp hotels while you’re at it.”

And to close, my suggestion is Silver Bullet (Daniel Attias, 1985) which features a very enthusiastic Gary Busey and a young Corey Haim in addition to the original Anne of Green Gables, Megan Fellows, battling a werewolf in their small town.

Click HERE to support People’s Breakfast Oakland!

And HERE to get started your very own Hooptober line-up!

Until next time, folks!

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